Rent survey: Students say uni accommodation ‘unaffordable’

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Photo: University of Stirling

Over 80% of students believe that university accommodation is not affordable, according to a report commissioned by Stirling Students’ Union.

The Big Rent Survey was taken by 427 Stirling students, 90% of whom were aged between 16 and 24.

Students were asked if they feel that university accommodation was affordable: 83.9% responded that it was not.

The report is intended to be used by Union President Dave Keenan to highlight student dissatisfaction with the current state of accommodation at a meeting of the Rent Review Group on January 23.

The survey found that 71% of students had less than £100 left to live on after paying essential bills. 26% of these students have less than £50 left, and 17% say that they have no money left after paying for essentials.

According to the findings, 15% of students are too embarrassed to look for financial support. The main outlet for support is through the discretionary fund that was agreed on by former Union President Andrew Kinnell and the university last year, which allows £50k for students struggling to pay their rent.

In the report, it was stated that only 8.4% of those who have sought financial support looked to a university hardship fund, instead borrowing from friends and family, or using a bank overdraft.

Keenan stated in a recent interview with Brig that one of the recommendations he would be putting forward to the Rent Review group next week would be a reworking of the discretionary fund.

He said last week: “One of the biggest issues with the housing fund is that it’s been under-publicised, it’s been under-used and it’s become ineffective.”

He encouraged the Rent Review group to be pre-emptive when it comes to financial support, to prevent having to “firefight” when students are in trouble.

The survey also asked for testimonies from students who filled it out, some of which were published as part of the findings.

Photo: University of Stirling Students’ Union

One student said:

Since first year I have lived in my overdraft as I simply can’t afford my living costs while at uni. I have had to take on a part time job which I have been repeatedly told by lecturers will affect my grades. I have never been more embarrassed as I was applying for a hardship fund to help pay back my mum.”

Another added: “It impacted my mental health and I had to move home for a time. I had a job and a student loan and still couldn’t afford a week’s shopping after my rent came out.”

8% of students stated that there was an impact on their mental health and 25% responded that they felt worried or stressed in having to ask for financial assistance.

The report stated: “With the ever increasing visibility and knowledge of how mental health is impacting students across the country, it is imperative we take action where we can to alleviate cause.”

A further 95% of students said that their money worries had impacted on them socially or academically.

The survey also asked whether the experience of living in halls outweighed the financial implications. 68% of respondents stated that it did not.

The report concluded by saying that the findings presented the university with information that was “never known to them before” and that it had moved on from the “anecdotal evidence of previous discussions… we now have a strong confirmation of the real issues the university needs to tackle when it comes to student accommodation.”

The conclusion continued: “This data challenges the university to tackle these core issues to ensure lasting and substantial change…

“It gives the university a chance to listen and respond to the opinions of its students and their needs, and in doing so, set down the precedence that the university does seek to improve the experience of its students, and thus challenge other universities to follow.”

The full report will be put to the Rent Review Group on January 23, with a list of recommendations.

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